The Imps showed courage and resilience in the clash with Blackpool, coming from two goals down to secure an unlikely point.
On a lovely, sunny afternoon at the Bank, City enjoyed going into a game as firm underdogs. In the past few weeks, we’ve almost always been favourites to win our home matches, and almost always failed to do so. Blackpool are one of the division’s in-form teams, with a 20-goal striker leading the line and they started the day above City. That certainly eased some of the pressure on the players as they lined up for kick off.
Bearing in mind we are still without our captain, leading scorer and number nine, the odds were firmly stacked against City. Joe Walsh returned to the squad, but not the starting XI, whilst Max Sanders got his first league start of the campaign in holding midfield. Brennan Johnson and Callum Morton both missed the defeat at Oxford, but both returned to the starting line-up, with Anthony Scully and Harry Anderson dropping back onto the bench. In defence, Adam Jackson also returned, with TJ Eyoma losing his place.
City started on the front foot, with a backpass to Blackpool keeper Chris Maxwell causing early problems. Callum Morton challenged for the ball and drew possibly the fastest booking of the season with under two minutes on the clock. Initially, the trio of McGrandles, Edun and Sanders looked to have the upper hand in midfield, and City enjoyed a lion’s share of possession in the first quarter of an hour or so.
It was, sadly, possession without a purpose, and before long the visitors began to ease into the game. Just for Richard Cross (I saw the comment on MDL), I tipped them as contenders at the beginning of the season, and that is how they began to look. Instead of Jerry Yates being the dangerman, the lad they have from Everton, Ellis Simms, looked likely to score.
I saw lots of comments later in the day about our poor defending, but I thought we did very well for much of the first half. We lacked a spark in the final third, I don’t think we had a shot on goal in the first 45, but we did look relatively solid at the back. I thought Montsma showed some nice touches at the back, and Adam Jackson seemed solid too. They had to be – this slick and organised Blackpool side often looked dangerous, with Sulley Kaikai one player I thought could turn the game on its head with his individual flair. He had a good chance from a free kick, a move partly of our making. We broke up field, but instead of being able to find the front three, we came backwards to start again, overplaying and losing the ball. That led to the free kick and whilst it might have been seen as playing out from the back, it wasn’t, it was playing into the back from the front. Credit to Blackpool though, they throttled space up top and forced us into the error. Anyhow, Kaikai’s free kick drew a decent save from Alex Palmer.
Our best chance of the half fell to McGrandles. He was fed in nicely by Morton, making a great run to enter the box, but rounding the keeper left him at a tight angle and he could only fire into the side netting. It was a half chance, but not one you expected us to score. A little later, Brennan Johnson ran across the area and couldn’t find time or space to shoot, but other than that our attack looked toothless.
On the other hand, everytime the visitors went up they looked threatening. I felt we did a decent job of keeping them quiet, lots of hard work from the likes of Jackson and Montsma, as well as the improving Bramall and steady Poole, but the back four do still look shaky. When you consider Michael’s skill is as a coach, and he hasn’t had much time to actually coach given the schedule and then the EPC closure, it is no surprise the team are coming together slowly. We’re building for the future with Bramall and Poole and both will be much better next year, not that they’re poor now.
As has often been the case this season, City went behind through a seemingly poor goal on 37 minutes. I have a fundamental issue with the laws of the game which allowed this though. Blackpool played a ball forward with yates (I think) in an offside position. He was 100% offside, but the assistant referee now cannot put the flag up until he moves to the ball. However, his presence forced us to put the ball out, rather than just let the move run its course. How is the player therefore not interfering with play? His presence meant instead of a free kick, or calmly collecting the ball and playing on, we gave away a throw in a decent position. If the flag goes up the minute he steps offside, our lad leaves the ball and the threat goes.
I know there is opportunity to stop the goal after that, but the next phase of play, from the throw we shouldn’t have had to concede, leads to a goal. Might I say, a well-taken and fully deserved goal, but a goal nonetheless? I don’t buy the player down with a head injury argument either, I know some of our lads wanted play stopped, but there wasn’t reason to in my opinion. Mind you, I don’t buy into it being shocking defending either; poor maybe, but there wasn’t a standout error which led to the goal.
That saw us through until half time, where the visitors held a justified lead. They’d been the better side, no doubt, they held the ball better, created more and looked the likeliest to win the game.
My halftime was made a little better by seeing the scenes from Grimsby. I don’t wish relegation on anyone, but I’ve never really liked Stefan Payne and to see him headbutt his own player and get sent off whilst stood in the door of a portacabin just had me howling. When your luck is out, right?